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Jacqueline Winspear

Jacqueline Winspear Mark Fairhurst

Jacqueline Winspear is the New York Times bestselling author of the Maisie Dobbs novels. The first in the series, Maisie Dobbs, won the prestigious Agatha Award for Best First novel, the Macavity Award for Best First Novel, and the Alex Award. She won an Agatha for Best Novel for Birds of a Feather and a Sue Feder/Macavity Award for Best Historical Mystery for Pardonable Lies.
 
Winspear was born and raised in the county of Kent in England. Her grandfather had been severely wounded and shell-shocked in World War I, and learning his story sparked her deep interest in the "war to end all wars” and its aftereffects, which would later form the background of her novels. Winspear studied at the University of London's Institute of Education, then worked in academic publishing, in higher education and in marketing communications in the UK. She immigrated to the United States in 1990 and embarked on her life-long dream to be a writer.
 
In addition to her novels, Winspear has written articles for women’s magazines and journals on international education, and she has recorded her essays for public radio. She divides her time between Ojai and the San Francisco Bay Area and is a regular visitor to the United Kingdom and Europe.
 

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  • Among the Mad by Jacqueline Winspear--Audiobook Excerpt

    Listen to this audiobook excerpt from Jacqueline Winspear's historical mystery novel Among the Mad. In this thrilling novel by the New York Times bestselling author of An Incomplete Revenge, sleuth Maisie Dobbs must catch a madman before he commits murder on an unimaginable scale. It's Christmas Eve 1931. On the way to see a client, Maisie Dobbs witnesses a man commit suicide on a busy London street. The following day, the prime minister's office receives a letter threatening a massive loss of life if certa

  • Pardonable Lies by Jacqueline Winspear--Audiobook Excerpt

    Listen to this audiobook excerpt from Jacqueline Winspear's historical mystery novel Pardonable Lies. In the third novel of the bestselling series, London investigator Maisie Dobbs faces grave danger as she returns to the site of her most painful World War I memories to resolve the mystery of a pilot's death. Agatha Christie's Miss Marple. Sue Grafton's Kinsey Millhone. Alexander McCall Smith's Precious Ramotswe. Every once in a while, a detective bursts on the scene who captures readers' hearts—and ima

  • Messenger of Truth by Jacqueline Winspear--Audiobook Excerpt

    Listen to this audiobook excerpt from Jacqueline Winspear's historical mystery novel Messenger of Truth, book 4 in her Maisie Dobbs series. London, 1931. The night before an exhibition of his artwork opens at a famed Mayfair gallery, the controversial artist Nick Bassington-Hope falls to his death. The police rule it an accident, but Nick's twin sister Georgina isn't so sure. When the authorities refuse to consider her theory that Nick was murdered, Georgina seeks out an old classmate from Girton College, M

  • An Incomplete Revenge by Jacqueline Winspear--Audiobook Excerpt

    Listen to this audiobook excerpt from Jacqueline Winspear's historical mystery novel An Incomplete Revenge. With the country in the grip of economic malaise, Maisie Dobbs is relieved to accept an apparently straightforward assignment to investigate a potential land purchase. Her inquiries take her to a picturesque village in Kent during the hop-picking season, but beneath its pastoral surface she finds evidence that something is amiss. Mysterious fires erupt in the village with alarming regularity, and a se

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  • Jacqueline Winspear Mark Fairhurst
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Q & A

You are well known for your superb portrayal of post-World War I England, a fact that you’ve stated requires research along with imagination. In Among the Mad, certain mental disorders are described and readers are taken inside of a few of England’s post-war mental institutions. What sort of research did you have to do to be able to write about these things?
 
Some of my "research" was based on personal experience, some on observation and obviously reading. The "personal experience" came when I was about sixteen. I transferred to another school to do my "A" levels (pre-higher education exams in Britain) and at that school, which one attended six days a week, we were expected to engage in some sort of activity or community service on Wednesday afternoons. I joined a small group involved in social services, so we helped in different care situations – initially a home for abused children and later a psychiatric hospital. The hospital had once been the original lunatic asylum for the area. Built in 1830, it was an imposing and rather gothic red brick building, still with bars at the windows and a wall around the grounds. My role as a volunteer was to talk to the patients, make their tea, walk with them and offer general companionship and conversation. Of course there were the wards where the patients were all elderly, some of whom were men damaged in the mind in one war or another. It was also disturbing to note that a few of the elderly women were never psychiatric cases, but had been sent to the asylum for being pregnant out of wedlock, and had been kept in so long that they could not live outside the hospital. For the most part, I spent those Wednesday afternoons with patients who were probably in their middle years, and who at first glance might have seemed as "normal" (and I use that word with care) as anyone you might meet in your daily round. But they weren’t. I spent many hours chatting to one man who had once been an eminent doctor. But he was a murderer (though probably charged with manslaughter, otherwise he would have been in an even more secure situation). I was at an impressionable age, and upon reflection, spent a lot of time wondering about that fine line that separates what we consider to be "normal" behavior – because to me at that time many of the patients seemed no more unhinged than the average person – and the point at which that line is breached according to individual and collective opinion.
 
I think those early thoughts gave way to the observation mentioned in the first sentence. Writers are, I believe, innately curious people-watchers. There are behaviors one observes in everyday life which are passing – road rage, a temper tantrum in a shop, a person overcome by some seemingly small slight, the depression that follows loss – but which make observers uncomfortable if the behavior is continued because it does not come within what is accepted to be a normal range of behaviors. Those madnesses in everyday life are interesting to the writer – and we’ve all crossed that line at some point.
 
Among the Mad portrays two types of mental instability resulting from highly stressful situations. The first is the criminal Maisie is searching for, who turns about to be a war veteran scarred by the trauma of war. The other is Billy Beale’s wife Doreen, who readers have seen slowly deteriorate since the death of her young daughter. Why did you decide to pair these two types of mental instabilities in this novel?
 
I think the reader will see that "madness" extends beyond the criminal or Doreen Beale. It is there in various subtle ways with other characters – there’s Detective Chief Superintendent MacFarlane, a man who tends to keep people on edge with the odd tantrum; there’s Priscilla Evernden, who is finding life in London more of a challenge than she thought and who finds solace in her cocktails, and then there’s Maisie herself, who is apt to detach from those she loves – her father, for example – when she is steeped in her thoughts.
 
I didn’t make a conscious decision to have one or two types of madness – some things just happen organically as you write – however, Doreen’s descent into melancholia seemed to just flow onto the page, and comes as no surprise to the reader who remembers Messenger of Truth and An Incomplete Revenge – the poor woman could not bear the loss of her youngest child and was burdened with a grief so deep that she needed help to navigate her way out of the abyss. Unfortunately, though there were advances in treatment of the mentally ill in the late 1920’s and early 1930’s, there were also practices steeped in the treatment protocols of the Victorian asylums.
 
Among the Mad deals with issues that are all too familiar in today’s world, namely war, economic crisis, terrorism, and the poor treatment of veterans. Are you ever surprised by the similarities between Maisie’s time and the present-day?
 
James Joyce famously said, "History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake." No, I am not surprised by those similarities. You only have to walk the battlefields of the Somme Valley in France and to know something of the history of the place to lack surprise at such repetitions in the experience of peoples across the ages. Terrorism is nothing new, though the tools of terrorism change with time, and economic crisis is never new, and has made news ever since the South Sea Bubble almost three centuries ago – and probably before. I am not surprised by the similarities of Maisie’s Day, though I am saddened by them.
 
Why did you decide to set AMONG THE MAD during the final week of 1931?
 
Again, it came about organically, as I wanted to set the book in a specific and limited period of time, and Christmas/New Year seemed a good place to start, especially as it is a time that brings it’s own emotions – and many would say madness.
 
Maisie is a woman ahead of her times. She is single, she manages her own business, and she has no trouble going head to head with men who attempt to intimidate her. Among the Mad also features another strong and independent woman in the character of Dr. Elsbeth Masters. Meanwhile, Maisie’s friend Priscilla could be considering more of a traditional woman. What inspired you to include female characters that exemplify a range of social and cultural roles in post-World War I England?
 
Because that is exactly how women were at that time – and though Maisie may seem ahead of her time, as I said earlier, she is very much of her time. There’s more information on my website on this subject, however, in 1921 a young woman in Britain stood only a one in ten chance of marriage, given the loss of young men to war – the census of that year revealed that there were almost two million "surplus" women of marriageable age who would never marry. Of course there were those who floundered, and those who married, but there were others, the "bachelor girls" of their day – across the social strata – who blazed a trail in all areas of endeavor.
 
Is there anything you’d like to share about the future of Maisie Dobbs?
 
Ohhhh, I’d better not be a spoiler ... but I can say that Maisie’s personal life takes on a rosier hue in the next novel.
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BOOKS BY THE AUTHOR

Maisie Dobbs Bundle #1, Pardonable Lies and Messenger of TruthBooks 3 and 4 in the New...

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Maisie Dobbs Bundle #2, An Incomplete Revenge and Among the MadBooks 5 and 6...

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Among the Mad

Maisie Dobbs Novels

Jacqueline Winspear

Henry Holt and Co.

In the thrilling new novel by the New York Times bestselling author of An Incomplete Revenge, Maisie Dobbs must catch a madman before he commits murder on an unimaginable...

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An Incomplete Revenge

Maisie Dobbs Novels

Jacqueline Winspear

Henry Holt and Co.

In her fifth outing, Maisie Dobbs, the extraordinary Psychologist and Investigator, delves into a strange series of crimes in a small rural community With the country...

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